California-based Saddleback Church, led by Pastor Rick Warren, has reached a new milestone in its 36 years of ministry with its 45,000th baptism, and the pastor took the 45,000th person baptized out to lunch.
"This weekend is a historic weekend for our church because somebody in this group is going to be the 45,000th baptism of Saddleback Church," Pastor Warren told his congregation last Sunday, as the church reached the unprecedented achievement. "And I'm going to take whoever that person is, out to lunch," Warren added.
Last weekend alone, 792 people were baptized, and Pastor Warren personally baptized 600 of them. This led to Saddleback recording 45,743 baptisms in total thus far across all 16 campuses, the church announced in a statement.
"Baptisms are an amazing moment in the life of the church," Warren said. "They are a public sign of new life in the believer, of new beginnings for all those involved, and they encourage everyone watching to renew their own commitment to Christ. We are grateful that God has graciously allowed us to be a part of more than 45 thousand people taking this amazing step and we pray that we'll get to be a part of many many more in the coming months and years."
In November, the church in Lake Forest, California, topped Newsmax's list of "Top 50 Megachurches in America." Humanitarian and author Johnnie Moore compiled the list based on the notoriety of the church's leaders, the ratings of their television and radio programs, and the reach of their books, public opinion and overall influence.
"His (Warren's) book, Purpose Driven Life, is second only to the Bible in non-fiction best-sellers; he was recently the subject of a major motion picture; he's trained hundreds of thousands of church leaders in every nation in the world; and he's on the speed dial of presidents, prime ministers, rock stars, and celebrities," Moore wrote at the time. "For years, insiders have joked that Warren is the 'Evangelical pope.' No one was joking any longer when Pope Francis came to America for the World Meeting of Families in September and invited the Evangelical Pastor Warren to deliver the keynote address."
As the megachurch celebrated its 35th year of ministry last year, Warren said he and his congregation "thank God for 35 years of blessing our church."
"The Bible says over and over again, we are to remember. The reason we remember the past is not to dwell on it, but to build our faith for the future," Warren added.
The church, which runs numerous ministries in the United States and other countries, says its purpose is "to bring people to Jesus and membership in his family, develop them to Christlike maturity, and equip them for their ministry in the church and life mission in the world, in order to magnify God's name."